|Katherine Mansfield by Kathleen Jones|
New Zealand is the kind of place that is perfect for the e-reader - no distribution costs and access to the free/discount book zone. But you don't see very many people with Kindles or Kobos. NZ has a reputation for being behind the times, so maybe that's it. The bigger bookstores have begun to sell Kobos, and you can order a Kindle from Amazon, but only the paper white, not the Kindle Fire which seems a bit unfair, since it's available almost everywhere else.
But interesting things are starting to happen on the e-book scene here. The publishing director of Penguin NZ who originally bought my Mansfield biography left a couple of years ago (just after bringing it out) to go freelance. Recently he contacted me about a digital venture he's become involved in - the start-up of an e-singles project with a small publisher called Bridget Williams Books, which has set up a publishing trust. They will initially be publishing some 'important' non-fiction titles, by some of NZ's best authors, anything from 5,000 to 30,000 words in size. I'm delighted (actually ecstatic!) that they've also decided to publish a chapter of my Mansfield biography as a 'stand-alone' and that I'm going to be part of the launch of New Zealand's very first e-singles.
And that's not the only development here. Last year my publicist at Penguin (just before the Random House take-over) also left to freelance, making her services available to indie authors. You can find Raewyn Davies profile on LinkedIn, if you're in need of a good publicity manager. It's symptomatic of the shift, all over the world, from big, 'traditional' publishing to a more fragmented, creative environment. More and more authors down here are self-publishing, though it's not the big thing that it is in Britain or the USA.
But perhaps that's about to change.
One of the interesting ideas that's sprung up here is The Story Mint, launched in 2012 by Suraya Dewing. It's a similar idea to YouWriteOn.com, in that it offers peer reviewing and assistance to budding authors, eventually helping the ones that rise to the top to get into print. A lot of people are talking about it.
And then there's Penelope Todd, who has set up Rosa Mira Books - 'NZ's first independent E-book publisher'. She is an NZ author who worked in traditional publishing and found that, in 2009, alongside quite a number of other editors and people-who-really-knew-about-books, she was no longer employed because her employer had been taken over by Random House. Penelope had been thinking about setting up a digital publishing company for some time and, although she knew very little about the technical aspects of e-publishing, she forged ahead with her idea. Being out of a job was a kick-starter.
'I had a website designed, got the name trademarked, read up, visited business consultants, fretted, negotiated with my first author, edited her fine novel, and took the many now-invisible steps that begin a brand new enterprise.' It was launched in 2011 with a novel called The Glass Harmonica. Rosa Mira have a lively blog here.
It's very interesting to go to another country and find out how they do things. I've been flicking through catalogues and looking at websites and prowling round book shops. What's been fascinating me is that New Zealand publishing has been dominated by big International Names in recent decades, but as that unravels, the smaller independent publishers that are emerging have a stronger, more recognisably Kiwi identity. They no longer have to edit and 'sanitise' their books to meet the demands of a global corporation. And now Independent E-publishing is going to give these publishers access to the international market without having to adapt the product to US or European tastes - you can't chop up the internet into exclusive territories - an e-book is available anywhere and that's got to be good for New Zealand. We're all going to be able to read New Zealand fiction and non-fiction with its native character intact!
Kathleen Jones blogs at www.kathleenjonesauthor.blogspot.com
Find out more about her books at www.kathleenjones.co.uk
Visit Kathleen's Page on Amazon